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LIGHTS UP BROADWAY FANS on counting down to another day leading to The 74th Annual Tony Awards. We have more iconic performances coming your way celebrating Broadway’s return on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Broadway’s biggest night is almost here!!
Our selection today at # 11 is a unique show that changed the face of Broadway. It follows 3 days in the life of residents in one of New York’s most famous upper West Side neighborhoods…. Washington Heights. It featured an incredible blend of original Hip Hop, Rap, Pop, Soulful, and Latin music. If you think about what we’re talking about, you guessed correctly….. This is In The Heights. In his breakout Broadway debut, the show features a score (in his Broadway debut) by Lin-Manuel Miranda along with a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes .
From the 2008 telecast, Lin-Manuel Miranda as “Usnavi”, Tony nominee Christopher Jackson as “Benny”, Tony nominee Robin De Jesus as “Sonny”, Tony winner (and nominee again this year) Karen Olivo as “Vanessa”, and the cast perform a medley of the show’s opening title song IN THE HEIGHTS and the showstopping 96,000.
IN THE HEIGHTS was first conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda (way long before his now worldwide smash hit Hamilton) in 1999 during his Sophomore year of college at Wesleyan University. Following seeing the musicals RENT and THE CAPEMAN on Broadway, he wanted to create his own show that takes place in the present day mixing Latin, hip hop, and rap into one show. He was inspired by his family routes, childhood, and living in Washington Heights, Manhattan. After a year of writing, the show got accepted into Wesleyan’s student Theater company called Second Stage (not related to the Off Broadway Theater company we know today) in the Spring of 2000. This 3 night only debut got the attention of fellow Wesleyan students consisting of John Buffalo Mailer, Neil Stewart, Anthony Veneziale, and Thomas Kail (who went on to direct the production). They wanted to expand the production and make it a full scale musical. It was continued to be expanded at the Drama Book Shop along with various readings, workshops, and labs. In addition, Quiara Alegria Hudes came on board as an additional book writer. 5 rough drafts of the musical were made.
Following over 7 1/2 years of readings and workshops, the show had its world premiere Off Broadway in 2007 at 37 Arts Theatre (now Baryshnikov Arts Center) and the response from critics and the audience exploded.. From there, the show went on to Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre where it ran for 1,213 performances. Under the direction of Thomas Kail and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, the cast consisted of….
Lin Manuel Miranda (later Javier Munoz, Corbin Bleu, and Kyle Beltran) as “Usnavi”,
Christopher Jackson (later Clifton Oliver) as “Benny”,
Robin De Jesus (later David Del Rio, Jon Rua, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett) as “Sonny”,
Tony winner Karen Olivo (later Marcy Harriell) as “Vanessa”,
Seth Stewart (later William B. Wingfield) as “Graffiti Pete”,
Mandy Gonzalez (later Janet Decal, Jordin Sparks, and Arielle Jacobs) as “Nina Rosario”,
Carlos Gomez (later Rick Negron) as “Kevin Rosario”,
Tony winner Priscilla Lopez as “Camila Rosario”,
Andréa Burns (later Bianca Marroquin) as “Daniella”,
Janet Decal (later Courtney Reed) as “Carla”,
Tony nominee Olga Merediz as “Abuela Claudia”,
Eliseo Roman as “The Piragua Guy”.
IN THE HEIGHTS was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2008 winning 4 including BEST MUSICAL and BEST SCORE. In addition, the show’s cast album also went on to win a Grammy for BEST MUSICAL THEATRE ALBUM.
From there, IN THE HEIGHTS has gone on to present productions across America, London’s West End (winning several Olivier Awards), Japan, Philippines, and around the world.
Along with the success of stage production, IN THE HEIGHTS most recently went on to become a successful movie musical. The film was shot in THE BARRIO itself of Washington Heights. After a year long delay due to COVID-19, it was released in the Summer of 2021 from Warner Bros. Pictures. Under the direction of Jon M. Chu and an updated screenplay by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Marc Klein, the film cast was led by….
Anthony Ramos as “Usnavi”,
Corey Hawkins as “Benny”,
Gregory Diaz IV as “Sonny”,
Noah Catala as “Graffiti Pete”,
Leslie Grace as “Nina Rosario”,
Jimmy Smits as “Kevin Rosario”,
Sacha Polanco as “Cuca” (formerly “Camilla Rosario”),
Daphne Rubin-Vega as “Daniella”
Stephanie Beatriz as “Carla”,
Olga Merediz reprising her performance as “Abuela Claudia”,
Lin Manuel Miranda as “The Piragua Guy”.
The show is also currently being performed in Schools, Community, and Regional Theaters everywhere.
Doesn’t this show make you want to get into that hip hop groove?
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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